Over the last few years, there has been an ongoing issue of fraudulent activity largely affecting the entire music industry. More recently, there has been an increase in behaviour which manipulates streaming royalties in particular. This type of activity is damaging to the music industry as a whole, and more specifically for legitimate artists who deserve to be paid fairly for their music. When fraudulent streaming activity occurs, it ultimately leads to a smaller pool of royalties available to pay out for legitimate artists.
Fraudulent activity has been such a prevalent issue, with the Centre National de Musique reporting that at least 1%-3% of music streams in France alone are fraudulent. Translated to a worldwide basis, according to recent studies reported by Music Business Worldwide, this equates to an estimated $169 million to $507 million of royalties being earned by fraudulent artists. This highlights just how much of a global issue this is for the music industry.
Stores such as Spotify have worked to increase awareness of fraudulent activity across their platform, including the use of illegitimate music promotion services to increase streams. It’s exceptionally important for you as an artist or label to check and verify third party companies you are looking to work with for promoting your music. In particular, be careful when discussing options with those who offer too good to be true results or guarantee a certain number of playlist placements or streams. These types of companies can often be scams, which will unfortunately result in stores removing your music from their platform.
What exactly is artificial streaming?
Artificial streaming is any activity that takes place on end-user platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music. The action is undertaken with the express purpose of artificially boosting streaming numbers for a particular track or catalogue. This results in fraudulently increased revenue and publicity for the artist and/or label. Another term for artificial streaming is Streaming Manipulaiton. This refers to an illegitimate number of streams and royalties the track produces.
How does artificial streaming happen?
Artificial streams are usually achieved by using bots, which are automated tools designed to perform a repeated action. This can include a series of different actions. Inn this instance, they usually play a track on loop to appear as if it has been streamed several times. Streaming platforms track unusual listening patterns and flag streams which they deem potentially suspicious and class as artificial streams.
How can I avoid being flagged for fraudulent streaming?
Companies which advertise guaranteed streams or playlist placements are strong indicators for an illegitimate business. If a company informs you they can guarantee you a definite number of streams or placement on a playlist, this is false information. It is essential you ensure you do not use these services. Engaging with these types of services will affect your music and legitimacy of you as an artist across digital platforms. This often results in removal of your music from stores.
Spotify only accept playlisting submissions exclusively through Spotify for artists. You cannot pay to get a place on these. Paying to get on editorial playlists is illegal. It is imperative you do not buy into any companies offering you guarantees.
The result of using an illegitimate company is a real threat to your work and artistry. They do not provide representative data, as the streams are not generated from real fans. This means the analytics cannot be used accurately which affects your royalties. It can also have an impact on the success of future releases. If your music is flagged for fraudulent activity, it will be removed from stores because of artificial streaming.
What is the music industry doing to tackle fraudulent streaming?
Platforms like Spotify have recently updated their anti-stream manipulation measures. They are now providing distributors like Horus Music with monthly reports. These reports contain details of any artificial streams which have been removed from the monthly royalty calculation. These royalties are also subsequently removed from your monthly statements and payments.
A global task force named Music Fights Fraud Alliance has also been created. The aim is to unite companies from all areas of the industry in the common goal of eradicating fraudulent streaming. By working together, the music industry hopes to provide solutions to the ongoing problems that are affecting artists.
What are Horus Music doing to tackle fraudulent streaming?
Horus Music works very closely with each digital service provider to monitor any abnormal behaviour which may reflect fraudulent streams. This includes monthly reports, and meetings to discuss the specific artists and labels who are of concern.
We are also taking internal measures to ensure that fraudulent artists and labels are not able to use our services. There have been instances confirmed by other distributors where fraudulent artists move from one distributor to the next. They are caught at one and simply continue their illegal activities at a new distributor. You may notice you are asked to provide photo ID along with proof of address and ownership of your music. This has always been written into our distribution agreement. We can assure you this is in place to protect you and your music from fraudulent activity. We also ensure we are in compliance with GDPR laws and keep all documentation secured safely. The cooperation of our artists and labels is greatly appreciated to ensure the system is fairer for everyone.
How do we support our artists who have been affected by fraudulent streaming?
It is important to remember that declaring a release as having earned royalties fraudulently is not Horus Music’s decision. We simply act on information provided from the platforms we deliver to.
We strive to work together with our artists to resolve any issues. If you are affected by a fraudulent streaming activity notification and believe your music has been flagged in error, we request our artists to provide evidence of genuine marketing campaigns and strategies. This can be provided by completing our Spotify Artificial Streams Counter Notification form within fourteen days of receiving email notification. From here, we can review the information submitted and investigate the matter further.
We also ensure to clearly explain to all our artists what fraudulent streaming is and why it could have occurred. It is essential we work together with our legitimate artists to support them through the process. Our team are always on hand via email and phone to address any queries and help to educate our artists.